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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery and several teenagers will be following in their father's footsteps when they compete as rookies this season at Hawkeye Downs Speedway.
One of those teenagers, Beckett Flannagan, doesn't officially turn 13 until July 10, but has been around racing his whole life, watching his dad, Patrick, and grandfather, Bill, work on their race cars.
"I've been with Pat for 20 years and have watched him do it, so I'm excited," said Beckett's mom, Brooke. "It's in his blood, but I'm nervous because that's my baby out there."
Although Beckett will be one of the youngest racers in Hawkeye Downs history, his father started on the same track, albeit the half-mile oval, in 1995 driving his dad Bill's backup Modified car as a 16-year-old.
"So far he's been fine doing solo runs and with guys showing him the line," Patrick said. "When they are in a group and they are actually racing, it's going to be a little different. I just wish his first race wasn't on Friday the 13th."
One way Hawkeye Downs is planning to be safe while managing expectations from the large class of especially young rookie drivers is to have them all start at the back of the pack — "until they show they can hold the line and keep up," Flannagan said.
The car Beckett will be driving is a "bone-stock" 2003 Pontiac Sunfire with more than 200,000 miles on the engine and a roll-cage installed by Bill and Patrick.
The sport compact, also known as a hornet, was gutted out and sent off to AutoCrafters to be tuned, but Flannagan said “for what I've spent on the car, it's fairly economical."
That's a major reason for the growth of this newer "entry-level" classification. Many young drivers are choosing to enter the sport through this division.
"My first time getting into the car was a little scary, but since then it's been easy," Beckett said. "I haven't been nervous since."
Another positive, besides Beckett's personal growth, is the increased strength in the already strong bond between the rookie driver and his seasoned father.
"It makes us closer," Beckett said. "Before he'd go to the shop and work but now I go with him."
If you need any more reason to root for Beckett, he offered this for thought: "I'm probably not going to wreck anybody because I have to work on my own car and I'll get in trouble with my dad."